POLITICS

The Fed's quantitative easing mostly helps the well-heeled and well-connected

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Business,Timothy P. Carney

The Federal Reserve’s policy of creating tons of new dollars by buying up financial assets is creating winners — and it’s not the middle class or the poor.

Reuters explains that the Fed’s buying spree has driven up the price of subprime bonds, making some investors rich, while not helping the subprime borrowers who defaulted in the housing bust.

The Fed’s current program is indeed helping matters greatly, by shoring up banks and lowering the borrowing costs of corporations and home buyers who have good credit. But it is also giving rise to unintended consequences: new asset bubbles that are mostly benefiting well-heeled investors.

The piece tells the story of a hedge fund that made good money on a bundle of subprime loans, and places this alongside the story of a former homeowner, whose mortgage was in that bundle.

The Fed announced its third round of QE on September 13, 2012. Prices of the subprime mortgage bonds held by Deer Park jumped in tandem with the Fed’s target asset, mortgages guaranteed by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Subprime paper, the supply of which had been falling as the underlying borrowers either repaid their loans or went bust, suddenly looked more attractive because of its much higher yields.

“I don’t think anyone saw it coming,” Burg, 34, said of the reaction. “I don’t think anyone saw how ferocious it was.”

Deer Park began finding buyers willing to pay top dollar. Six days after the Fed announced QE3, Burg sold the Citigroup bond for 39 cents on the dollar, or $1.8 million, a profit of 50 percent. By February, the value soared to about 65 cents on the dollar.

View article comments Leave a comment